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A look at the history of Veterans Day

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By The Staff

The definition of armistice is the cessation of hostilities. The most significant armistice to all Americans was signed at 5 a.m. Nov. 11, 1918, ending World War I after four years of conflict.

This armistice was an order for all firing to cease and the laying down of all arms. All over the world there were many demonstrations, blowing of whistles and impromptu parades. Many businesses closed their doors as the world rejoiced for the ending of "the war to end all wars."

In November 1919, President Wilson issued his Armistice Day Proclamation and set the tone for future observances. He asked Americans to be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country's service.

But it was not until 1938 that Congress passed a bill that each Nov. 11 "shall be dedicated to the cause of world peace and hereafter celebrated and known as Armistice Day."

For 16 years the United States formally observed Armistice Day with parades and religious services. At 11 a.m. all traffic stopped in tribute to the dead, volleys were fired and taps sounded

As years passed the significance of this holiday changed. Armistice Day came about after the end of World War I but America now had new veterans of the second world war who had little or no association with the armistice of World War I.

Many veterans groups felt Nov. 11 should be the time to honor all who have fought in American wars.

An act of Congress May 24, 1954, changed the holiday of Armistice Day to Veterans Day. In October of that year, President Eisenhower called on all citizens to observe the day by remembering the sacrifices of all those who fought so gallantly to preserve our freedoms.

The president referred to the change of name to Veterans Day in honor of the servicemen of all America's wars.

Through the years the official day to honor veterans passed through many changes. In the 1960s, Veterans Day was celebrated as a three-day weekend.

The first Veterans Day under the new law was observed with much confusion. Some businesses closed, causing missed deadlines and disruption of services.

Many states did not agree with this change and continued to celebrate the holiday on the original date.

It became quite apparent that the commemoration of this day was a matter of historic and patriotic significance to a great number of Americans, so on Sept. 20, 1975, President Ford signed a public law which returned the annual observance of Veterans Day to its original date.

Veterans Day continues to be observed each Nov. 11, regardless of what day of the week on which it falls, thus preserving the historical significance of the date.

Let us all remember the important purpose of Veterans Day: A celebration to honor American's veterans for their patriotism, love of country, and willingness to serve and sacrifice to preserve our freedoms.

We all should pause for a moment to remember and thank all Perry County veterans, those still with us, and those in our past.

Mason is curator of the Perry County Museum in Cannelton.